Gardener’s Progress

I’ve always loved gardens and I’ve always loved food. We moved to this house 9 years ago and our garden has been completely neglected for much of that due to beardieboy not being a natural anything that doesn’t involve a guitar and me being progressively more ill as the years have past. I wanted to take control because we have a great location and space and because gardening is very therapeutic, both mentally and physically, it is also a good opportunity to get some vitamin d and teach the youngest about the value of the food that is on the plate. It’s narrow and very long and gets a lot of sun or would have done if the trees weren’t out of hand, so this is where we started.

This was the garden before we got started.


As you look down you can see thick hedges either side. The right side is our responsibility and that hedge was between 6ft and 9ft wide in parts, the hedge on the left is in far better condition and very compact beyond the new growth.  We had some tree surgeons and fencers in.

The hedge filled the entire garden next door as it was being cut down

three trees down, one polarded., fence up.

You can clearly see how ridiculously overgrown the garden was and what a difference taking that leggy messy hedge out and removing the trees has made. The hedge on the left got cut shortly after this making the garden seem even bigger. This was the winter of 2015. I started getting a veg plot together on a temporary site by March 2016.

I have mobility issues. Two bad hips, back problems, grip issues, shoulder injury and an energy limiting chronic condition so I needed to think smart. We couldn’t put the veg plot in its permanent home because the ground needed preparing but we bought a VegTrug to get me started. A vegtrug is a waist high planter that enables a person to manage the crop without having to bend down. They’re also very good for accessibility if  you are a wheelchair user as you can get close to the bed. They’re sturdy but also can be moved. I filled one and quickly went for another. I got two large ones, a herb planter and some vegetable grow bags. I researched growing potatoes and a lot of new thinking is around tubers in individual bags to get the best crop.  I bought a plastic greenhouse to bring the toms along and got started. I mainly used nursery raised baby plants to get started but had a mixed result growing from seed. I pretty quickly felt quite overwhelmed. I’d done a rookie error of putting too much in all at once, no progressive sewing or planting. Pretty quickly I’d gone from an empty garden, see above, to feeling like it was all a bit much, see below. The result of this was loads of veg, yes, but a huge flare up of the chronic condition meant my summer ended in the garden way too early.

Plans to get the garden layout done ready for this year flew out of the window shortly after my summer of gardening came to an early end. Beardieboy’s brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and nothing really mattered after that. I may talk about it another day but for now I’ll just say we lost him on valentine’s day and it’s only been in the last few weeks  that I’ve really got going again. I’ve got a second temporary larger greenhouse, a small vegtrug with a cold frame over the top and a couple of metre square raised beds as well. I’ve avoided spuds this year. Mainly cause even in the bags they were the most back breaking and difficult crop mobility wise. Instead I’ve added a number of different kinds of beans and peas into my plan. I’ve got broad, soya, runner, french beans, all grown from seed and a handful of nursery plants of runners that are looking pretty rubbish at the moment so I may well give them up and replace them with the seedlings instead of using them as a progressive crop. Last years’s seed planting had pretty poor results all round and that I think is down to the variability of my condition. I couldn’t always get out to water things when they needed it. This year my youngest has promised to help and is so far being a star. When the beds are in their permanent position they’ll be set up with a drip irrigation system. Hopefully that will put an end to mildew and other reasons for less than perfect results.

What am i growing this year?

All ready in the beds are carrots, onions, leeks, lettuce, courgettes, cabbage, cauliflower, strawberry, kale, runner beans, peas, broad beans. In the greenhouses I have tomatoes, peppers, chillies. I decided to work on my propagating and have a number of flower seeds in trays in the greenhouse. I also have soya beans, runner beans, purple french beans, lettuce, pumpkin, courgette, squash, rocket, all of which are coming on very well and benefiting from vigilance in the slug department and regular gentle watering. Not germinating yet are cucumber seeds but there’s still time.

In the raised square beds I’ve sewn drills of beet leaves, radish, beetroot and parsnip. The radish are having a field day and will be ready to thin this week, beet leaves and beetroot are coming on well and the parsnips are still a week or so short of germination.

Half the carrots will be ready early next month, they will make room for courgette and squash. I’m trying to think carefully, diarising my decisions so i can review them next year and make changes if required. I’ve got apple trees growing along the fence line and very shortly will be planting the cane fruit and bramble. I find myself praying for a lull in pain and an increase in energy to coincide with a day of good weather. I think that having that to look forward to and hope for is a very good thing for someone with a progressive illness.

Meanwhile we’re getting on with readying the permanent home of the veg plot, ready to move the raised beds in autumn and may even get round to laying a water supply and a lawn before then too.

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